Why being an NHS manager is like managing the England football team

England crashed out of the World Cup today after arguably playing their best game, when there was nothing left to play for and the outcome was already known, Roy Hodgson saw the opportunity to test his succession planning.

NHS management and more latterly NHS Leadership has always been the subject of criticism from its many detractors.  Being the England Manager is probably one of the few careers shorter than the average tenure of an NHS CEO (700 days), however maybe both need to be given more of a chance.

There was a time when football was all about brute force, ferocious tackles and long balls but times change and football is now more strategic, infused with tricks and skills.

Similarly NHS Leaders were traditionally operational managers and some nurses (in the main) who knew how to run a hospital or Mental Health Trust learning their trade by doing today’s work today and fire fighting to keep the metaphorical show on the road.  These skills have proved invaluable for delivering on the operationally focused targets over the past decade but now the rules are relatively similar but the style of play is different.

The NHS needs leaders that can think across boundaries and drive through the changes that are so desperately needed to deliver on integration; whole health economy solutions; reformed out of hospital care and higher levels of staff engagement.

In order to do this and do it well, NHS leaders need more tools in their toolkit and a greater number of strategic options made available.  The Dalton Review (#DaltonReview2014) is seeking to provide leaders of organisations providing NHS care with new options to explore how care could be delivered differently with new strategic options to pursue.  Supporting leaders across the healthcare system to drive up reliable and consistent access to high quality care for patients is key to future sustainability.

Once healthcare leaders are clear about the new style of play and have the right tools and succession plan to deliver the vision for the healthcare provision of the future, they will play their hearts out to deliver, like England in the last game of their 2014 World Cup campaign, with hopefully better results.